/ 8 June 2024

Is the BMW i5 M60 an electrified M5?

P90540757 Highres Bmw I5 M60 In South (1)
Bmw I5 M60

BMW remains a focused company. Before you roll your eyes, wait, let me clarify. When the Bavarian car maker decided to offer electric vehicles under its “i” division, there was more than method to their madness. 

The genesis of this is the i3, which was launched in South Africa in 2015. Since then, a slew of models have followed this trajectory, not least of which are the i4 and i7, based on the 4 Series Gran Coupe and 7 Series, respectively, the caveat being that they are fully electric. 

Now the i5 has joined the line-up and, yes, you guessed it, an electrified 5 Series. 

On test here is the flagship variant of the i5, the M60 — you also get an eDrive40 derivative — and it has a lot of the fundamental executive sedan bases licked. 

Upper-executive sedan proportions, check! Well-appointed cabin, check! Practical cabin and boot space, check! And, in the case of the M60, searing performance, check! All these conspire to make a very competent saloon that should still appease fans of the 5 Series. 

While the design is somewhat contentious when viewed in pictures, in the metal, it all comes together quite eloquently. The long, sloping bonnet, roomy passenger cell and stubby boot lend the model that classic three-box design we have come to appreciate in sedans. 

The i5 is, at worst, interesting to behold, especially the standard M Performance specification that sees 21-inch wheels at each corner, tailored side skirts, a rear diffuser and a liberal sprinkling of M badges. 

Granted, the sedan segment is on the decline in Mzansi but the premium marques remain more buoyant than those outside of this realm, so cars like the i5 need to be a cut above to make absolute sense. 

So, let us deep-dive into the intricacies and leave the exterior aspects for you to pore over. 

Enter the executive lounge-like cabin, and it is here that the Bavarian marque has moved the goalposts, compared to the outgoing fiver. 

Tactility has moved more than a few rungs up the premium ladder. 

The cabin appointments are top-drawer, top-tier levels of loftiness, and one cannot help but sense that the designers got the upper hand during the boardroom negotiations, and all the better for the vehicle. 

Everything has a tactility befitting an executive saloon of this calibre, and even beyond, such is the quality compared to the outgoing model. 

This spills over into the sumptuous seats, which have heating and cooling functions and offer great scope for adjustment. 

The infotainment screen is at the heart of the interior’s functions and you need a fair bit of acquaintance to be able to navigate the labyrinth of apps which, thankfully, once licked, are intuitive enough. 

Powering the i5 M60 is an 81.2kWh battery pack, enough to give you a 512km range on the WLTP (worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure) cycle. 

Of course, this depends on various parameters, including driving style and ambient temperature. 

It powers an electric motor on each axle for a combined output of 442kW and 795Nm, enough to hurtle it from 0 to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds, to a top speed of 230km/h. 

As you can see from the numbers, this top-dog i5 is seriously brisk and gets on swiftly with moving the hefty 2.3 tonne sedan. 

Four-wheel traction means immediate and surefooted purchase off the line and on varying surfaces. That inherent immediate acceleration of EVs is truly something to behold, especially in this performance-bent derivative. It feels like a proper kick-in-the-gut acceleration. 

It is devastatingly quick in a straight line but what of corner-tugging duties? Well, let’s just say this is where EVs are still wanting, thanks to those heavy lithium-ion batteries. 

Braking, in particular, is where one feels the penalties. The car overshot a braking point more than once as the pedal, once depressed, simply could not slow down the vehicle enough, due to inertia. 

On the flip side of the coin, it is an executive sedan that imparts a feeling of calmness that needs to be experienced to be appreciated. 

The i5 proved an easy car to live with and, during the test tenure, we used the public DC fast-charging network, which worked a treat, thanks to the recent respite from load-shedding. 

Charging the vehicle from almost empty takes just over two hours on a DC charger and would be around eight hours on a home wall-box at 11kW — essentially overnight. 

As battery technology improves, reducing weight and charging duration, EVs are great when the infrastructure is in place and working optimally. 

The only thing left now is to make EVs more viable to purchase. The department of trade and industry needs to execute the next phase of the white paper agreement on EVs, changing the status quo where an ad valorem 11% tax, essentially a luxury tax, is slapped on over and above the 25% VAT on imported cars. 

The BMW i5 M60 is a precursor to what a full-fat EV M5 could do, should the marque move that way. At R2 190 000, the i5 M60 commands a hefty price but it offers handsomely for that princely sum in both the luxury and performance quotas.